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Keno History

Keno dates back centuries and you can learn all about its origins and history here.

The gambling game of keno originated in China and legend has it that it was used to help fund the building of The Great Wall of China and once saved a great ancient city during a war.

The name "Keno" is derived from French or Latin with the French "quine" for "five winning numbers" and the Latin "quini" meaning "five each".

The first documented references to Chinese Keno lottery-like games are in 1847 when the Portuguese government in Macao granted official licences to operators. In China the game was played with sheets of paper listing the first 80 Chinese characters from what was known as the Thousand Character Classic. Winning numbers where selected from it and used to determine the winning player. It has been reported that the winning results where sent by carrier pigeon to outlying villages and settlements from the major cities. This resulted in the Chinese name báigē piào, which translates to "white dove ticket" in English. This was pronounced baak-gap-piu in Cantonese which is where the Western spelling 'pak-ah-pu' or 'pakapoo' is derived.

The game was exported to the West by Chinese immigrants who sailed to America to help build the Transcontinental Railway in the 19th-century.  The Chinese name was first westernized to "boc hop bu" and "puck-apu", but by 1866 it was popularly played in Houston, Texas using the name "Keno".




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